"Destroying things is much easier than making them" - a simple statement by Katniss just past the book's middle that speaks volumes. It's easier to destroy a child/innocence/life/culture/civilization, than it is to create them. Suzanne Collins screams that message repeatedly in The Hunger Games.
I can't say I enjoyed the book. The barbarism depicted in The Hunger Games is deeply disturbing. I kept thinking of my reaction to Lord of the Flies in middle school. The image of the pig's head on a stake unsettled me for a long time. The stranded children reverting to tribalism and horrific violence, surely that couldn't really happen, could it? As a young person, I discarded the notion as fantasy. It was simply too far removed from my experience of the world. Now in my 40s, I've seen depictions of such horrors on the evening news and during my own travels in Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Hunger kills, breeds desperation. The Hunger Games really isn't fantasy, it's a mirror.
What inspired Collins to build such a disturbing world? I've never read anything about her, so I'm not sure. But I can make comparisons. I've already pointed to Golding's Lord of the Flies. Mix in a heaping helping of Stephen King's The Running Man, some Romeo-and-Juliet-esque tragic teen romance, Roman gladiator games and a dash of Survivor - voila! The Hunger Games. Factor in the first-person pov centered on Katniss and you end up with a claustrophobic, brutal novel with moments of sweetness. Only the characters within Katniss' immediate orbit achieve any sort of depth. The others remain shallow mysteries, and are easy to hate. I loved and hated who Katniss loved and hated.
In the end I loved and hated The Hunger Games. I loved the pacing, Collins' gifts of storytelling and world building, and the adrenaline I felt as Katniss entered The Hunger Games' arena. I hated the broken world it depicts, the slaughter, and the low-grade anxiety/vertigo I felt while reading. Only a good novel can make me experience such uncomfortable feelings. The Hunger Games is a very good book, a worthy read. I will read Cathing Fire and Mockingjay to honor my curiosity over how things turn out. But I don't know that I need to read The Hunger Games again. I definitely got the point the first time!